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The Client Letter We’d All Like to Send

For one reason or another, the custom integration industry gets held to a different standard than other trades, with integrators often subjected to unfair criticism for a level of support that already goes beyond what most people should expect. The following is a rumination sent to us by one of our contributing integrators.

For one reason or another, the custom integration industry gets held to a different standard than other trades, with integrators often subjected to unfair criticism for a level of support that already goes beyond what most people should expect. The following is a rumination sent to us by one of our contributing integrators:

Image: Thinkstock

Dear Stan,

I just wanted to follow-up on our phone call from last evening and go over a few things…

In case you don’t remember, you called me at 11:14 p.m. Now, if I’m being totally honest, when I saw your name appear on my phone, it kind of instantly ruined my entire night. I had been enjoying a relaxing evening with my wife, sipping an Old Fashioned and watching the latest episode of Homeland, which, if I’m being honest again, kind of feels like it has lost its way a bit this season.

Anyhow, when I saw your name pop up, I immediately felt kinda sick and really didn’t want to answer the phone. I knew that a phone call from you so late was not going to be anything good and a large part of me just wanted to hit “ignore” and then turn my phone off. Or maybe throw it in the swimming pool. But, since I knew my night was already ruined, I decided to man up and answer the call hoping that I’d be able to resolve whatever issue you were experiencing, or at least reassure you that we could get the problem rectified ASAP.

I’m sorry that you couldn’t get the TV to work in your bedroom. I mean, sure, it was after 11 p.m. and you probably weren’t going to be watching that much longer, and there are like 10 other TVs in the house, but I understand that must have been irritating. As I explained to your daughter—whom you handed the phone to when I started asking some questions about the status of the system in order to ascertain what was going on to try to fix it—the problem you experienced had absolutely nothing to do with any of our components; rather the cable company’s box was locked up. I know this because we were able to control the receiver via IP and both it and the TV were responding correctly.

I guess you didn’t recall that we added a “Reboot Cable Box” button to every single touchscreen in the house. This button cycles the power outlet the cable box is connected to, waits 10 seconds, and then powers the box back on. Fortunately, thanks to your Control4 system’s remote access, I was able to log into your system from my iPhone while talking to your daughter, confirm that commands were being sent, and “press” the reboot button which resolved the problem and returned a TV picture in about 30 seconds. Phew!

While a follow up “thank you” text would have really been nice after I resolved the issue, I have come to no longer expect such courtesies.

What I wanted to address were your comments about “hating the system,” that you “don’t know how anything works,” that you “shouldn’t have paid your last bill, “and that you “wish I had never bought any of it.”

First off, I just have to ask, how many of the other trades that worked on your home do you think would take your phone call after 11 p.m. on a Sunday night three years after the job was completed, and then spend 15 minutes on the phone helping you with an issue? Just curious…

It sure is disappointing to hear that you hate the system, but I’m not really sure what the source of your hate is. The system has had remarkably few problems since we installed it, and every time there has been a problem we usually have a tech at your house the next business day. The major issues that we have had all stemmed from things outside our control, such as that large lightning strike on the property, or the repeated testing of the home’s generator that killed and abruptly restored power to our rack over and over, and the failure of those three indoor TVs installed outside, something we had cautioned you against doing.

You know what you never seem to have issues with? Your network. Did you know that your home has 112 hardwired Ethernet connections, with multiple high-powered wireless access points, and a controller handling the seamless Wi-Fi roaming around the house? Pretty amazing that we haven’t had any networking issues, but that’s what you get for using enterprise-grade gear like the Pakedge system we installed.

At this point, you have lived with the system for more than three years, so I’m a bit flummoxed by your comment that you don’t know how anything works. I know that we have customized things for you so that you need to just walk into a room and press a single button that will turn on the TV and set it to your favorite program based on the time of day. We also programmed a one-button touch to fill your home and outside areas with music. We’ve also programmed, and reprogrammed (and reprogrammed…) the Lutron HomeWorks lighting scenes around the house for you to get them exactly as you’d like. (Even though you’ve had us change/change back/change/change back some of the same programming over and over.)

We have had multiple training visits to go over the system operation, with four separate people in our company, but, frankly, it really doesn’t seem like you want to learn how to use the system. I recently called up and spoke to your house manager and asked him if I should schedule another training visit, and he said that it wouldn’t do any good; that you don’t want to know how things work.

I know that it isn’t what you want to hear, but, unfortunately, sometimes electronics just glitch. No matter how well they’re built, designed, or installed, electronics can be fussy and act up for no rhyme or reason sometimes. Usually a reboot will solve the problem, and we’ve installed systems in your home to make this process as pain free as possible.

Where it comes to your last bill, as I’ve told you before, we do invoice for on-going maintenance and service on the system. And at three years after the completed install, we are well beyond issues that we can continue to cover at no charge. However, the majority of items on that bill had nothing to do with the original system failing. We had to install a new TV (that you purchased elsewhere, by the way) and get it integrated into the control system. We changed (again) lighting scene programming. We troubleshot some lighting issues that turned out to be bad bulbs. And we found a bad fuse that was keeping one of the automated shades from working.

Instead of being upset with the fact that we invoiced you for this work, many of our clients are thrilled that we are still around and continue to support their systems years after the installation.

Finally, since we’re being honest, sometimes I wish you had never bought any of it either. :/

Your Installer

What do you do about clients like the recipient of the above theoretical letter? Let us know in the comments.